Create two displays.
I selected two themes for displays to run about two weeks each in the month of May.
Display One: Mysteries, May 2 - 21 (see previous blog post)
Display Two: Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, May 21 - 31
Some reasons why I chose the theme for my second display:
- May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.
- I have personal interest and professional investment in diverse populations, including the Asian-Pacific American (APA) community. (Check out my growing Goodreads lists of APA writers and APA protagonists.)
- I wanted to try a topic that could open up possibilities of displaying books from Fiction, Non-fiction, Children's, Teens, DVDs, etc.
The steps in preparing the items for the display were similar to those I followed for my Mysteries display. However, the selection process was more involved. In contrast to the Mysteries display, for which I could pull just from one section of the Ballard Branch collection, I browsed several sections of the Ballard Branch for items relevant and appropriate to APA heritage. I selected novels, biographies, picture books, DVDs, audio books, history books, and cookbooks for this display. For items I couldn't catch just by browsing the shelves, I completed advanced searches in the catalog. (Some helpful subject headings were <American literature--Asian American authors> and <Asian Americans - Biography>.) For items not housed at Ballard Branch, I requested them a couple weeks before the display was to go up. About of a third of the books I selected for the APA Heritage Month display were requested and sent from other SPL branches.
I spent a little more time on creating the signage for this display. With the Mysteries signage, I used the free clip art from MS Publisher, but I knew this wouldn't be a good resource when looking for APA-related images. I checked a few photo resources online, and Flickr's Creative Commons section proved most helpful to me. Searching for keywords <Asian American> in image databases didn't return many relevant results. However, creative thinking included adding the keyword <festival> to my searches and looking for <Seattle International District> for a local twist. I was lucky to find colorful images with Creative Commons Attribution licenses that allowed me to use pictures (with credits) for this library display.
I appreciated the experience of doing a second display in the same month. Just having a different theme made the process surprisingly different. In addition to the extra steps in selecting items (as described above), maintenance of the display required less restocking but more "refreshing", i.e. replacing displayed items that were not being checked-out with new items for patrons to browse.
The APA Heritage Month theme also challenged me in ways that the Mysteries display did not. When selecting books, I had to define for myself what "Asian-Pacific American" meant and how to reflect that in the display. This included asking myself straight-forward questions, like "Which countries of origin does 'APA' cover?", but also included more complex questions, such as "Does this book cover perpetuate stereotypes?" and "Would displaying Asian history books or Asian country profile books negate the Asian American experience?" (Yeah, deep.) I had to compromise between remaining sensitive to these issues but not over-thinking my choices. In the end, I knew that if anyone was confused by one of my selections, I would be happy to discuss it with him or her.
Other challenges I had with this display were less philosophical/political/intellectual. The up side requesting books from the catalog was having access to the SPL system-wide collection. The down side was not being able see the books I was requesting. I returned several requested items after seeing that they were in poor condition or unattractive covers. Another complication I ran into was that many of the books I had envisioned placing on display were already on display elsewhere or all copies of a title were checked out. On the bright side, this means that there are several APA-related books in high demand.
I initially felt disappointed in the slow movement of the display I had created. I had selected about 70 items for the display, and gathering more back stock was not as pressing as it was with the Mysteries display earlier in the month. I interpreted this as a lack of interest in the topic. By the end of its run, though, more than half of the books had been checked out. Hannah reminded me that check-out rates are not the (only) measure of success, and that is a good point which I will remember in the future. Even if as many books weren't checked out, the section was browsed quite a bit while observing from the information desk just a few yards away. Also, creating a display like this spreads awareness of the topic (not everyone knows that there's an APA Heritage Month). Hannah mentioned that this also creates awareness of the collection--maybe a patron will remember in the future a book he/she saw on the display. Plus, creating a display helps a librarian become more familiar with the collection: which items are held locally versus at another branch, the condition of the collection, and the gaps and the strengths of the collection. Overall, yes, the APA Heritage Month display was a success.